Posted by Shadi Matar on January 14, 2016 in Blog

Hamtramck_city_seal.pngThe past November the City of Hamtramck, Michigan elected three new members to their city council, Saad Almasmari, Anam Miah, and Abu Musa. All three won from a pool of six candidates who ran very competitive campaigns to earn the city council seats. With their additions to the city council, Hamtramck is now the first city in the United States with a majority Muslim city council and this has caused a flurry of anti-Muslim rhetoric to be directed toward the newly elected councilmembers and the city of Hamtramck.

The Detroit suburb of 22,000 people is used to having a diverse representation of people in its community. Immigrants comprise 41% of the population in the city - nearly a quarter of the population is Arab American, and large portions are Bangladeshi American and Polish American. After the November 3rd election headlines labeling Hamtramck as “Muslimville USA,” as well as stories about “Sharia Law” taking over the city, flooded media outlets.

Michigan suburbs with large Arab American populations such as Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Sterling Heights have been the targets of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric for a while; these new headlines are not the first time egregious claims have been made about the different Arab American communities in Michigan.

Most of the bigoted rhetoric seems to be coming from outside the community itself. In an interview with CNN, Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski defended the council after the interviewer asked if she felt worried about its new makeup, saying that the city is “most concerned with the day-to-day issues that affect their life when they walk out their front door.” 

This is just one example of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric that gets directed toward elected and appointed officials who are of Arab heritage or are American Muslims throughout the county. The Arab American Institute released a new poll last month on American Attitudes Towards Arabs and Muslims that shows that many Americans are not confident in the ability of an Arab American or American Muslim government official to perform their job because of their ethnicity or religion.

All officials should be judged on their actions rather than their backgrounds. Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric has no place in the public discourse.



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